Plod­ding Eng­land grate­ful to Kane yet again

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - SI­MON PEACH IN VIL­NIUS ■ Email: yps­ ■ Twit­ter: @YPS­port

ENG­LAND once again dis­ap­pointed in vic­tory as man­ager Gareth South­gate’s men stut­tered against Lithua­nia in their fi­nal com­pet­i­tive match be­fore next sum­mer’s World Cup.

Qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the fi­nals in Rus­sia had been wrapped up with a game to spare, but there was only a mod­icum of pos­i­tiv­ity sur­round­ing the Three Lions af­ter Thurs­day’s pon­der­ous per­for­mance against Slove­nia.

South­gate shoul­dered the re­spon­si­bil­ity and hoped to make amends with an en­ter­tain­ing dis­play against Lithua­nia, yet Harry Kane’s first-half penalty was the only mo­ment to cel­e­brate as Eng­land won by a single goal against the side ranked 120th in the world.

The main en­joy­ment for the trav­el­ling hordes were the strug­gles of old foes Scot­land in Slove­nia, while they re­sorted to irony by liken­ing Eng­land’s play to watch­ing Brazil – next month’s op­po­nents at Wem­b­ley af­ter world cham­pi­ons Ger­many’s visit.

Those friendlies could make for grim view­ing from an Eng­land per­spec­tive un­less things dras­ti­cally im­prove from this week, with cap­tain Kane’s per­for­mances among few gen­uine pos­i­tives.

The 24-year-old striker made it 15 goals in his last 10 matches for club and country by slot­ting home what proved to be the firsthalf win­ner af­ter Dele Alli won a penalty.

The pair’s Tot­ten­ham team­mate Harry Winks showed prom­ise on his se­nior de­but, but the three-man de­fence clearly needs work given the num­ber of times goal­keeper Jack But­land was worked as an un­beaten Group F cam­paign ended limply.

Eng­land’s trav­el­ling hordes gave po­lite ap­plause at the end, with many fans still be­decked in pon­chos as rain fell for the ma­jor­ity of the night in Vil­nius.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Three Lions’ dis­play was as drab as the weather in the first half as an ex­per­i­men­tal side dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion with­out the nec­es­sary bite.

Things could have been dif­fer­ent had debu­tant Harry Maguire – for­mer Sh­effield United and Hull City cen­tre-half – con­nected with an early header, but it was Lithua­nia who took the greater risks in push­ing for an opener.

Arvy­das Noviko­vas was prov­ing a nui­sance and Darvy­das Ser­nas nearly cap­i­talised on a de­fen­sive slip, go­ing close from left-back Vy­tau­tas An­driuske­vi­cius’s fine cross.

But­land, mak­ing his sec­ond com­pet­i­tive ap­pear­ance at the venue of his first, com­fort­ably held on to a strike by Ovidijus Ver­bickas, the player guilty of gift­ing Eng­land a 27th-minute lead.

Michael Keane’s snapshot wide was a warn­ing shot that ap­peared to rat­tle Lithua­nia mo­men­tar­ily, with Ver­bickas down­ing Alli in the box.

In-form Kane stepped up to fire home the re­sult­ing penalty, hit­ting a fierce, low shot out of Ernes­tas Setkus’s reach and in off the in­side of the left-hand post.

The Eng­land cap­tain saw another at­tempt blocked, be­fore debu­tant Winks played a quick pass down the line for Marcus Rash­ford.

The Manch­ester United for­ward showed quick feet and got away an ef­fort that called Lithua­nia’s goal­keeper into ac­tion.

But­land ap­peared to get a touch on a fine Fe­dor Cernych half-vol­ley that rip­pled the net- ting as an un­der­whelm­ing first half came to an end.

Winks showed com­po­sure to jink into space and test Setkus when play re­sumed af­ter the break, only for But­land to be forced into a fine one-handed save to pre­vent Keane turn­ing into his own goal in the 55th minute.

Ser­nas was un­able to pro­vide a fin­ish­ing touch when Lithua­nia had at­tempts of their own.

Alli flashed over at the end of a well-worked move that was fol­lowed by chants of ‘It’s just like watch­ing Brazil’.

Scot­land’s is­sues – a 2-2 draw in Slove­nia ul­ti­mately ended their qual­i­fi­ca­tion hopes – were also pro­vid­ing amuse­ment the fans.

Setkus clawed away Aaron Creswell’s goal­bound header from a Jor­dan Hen­der­son cross, and Kane dragged just wide of the Lithua­nia goal as Eng­land pushed for a sec­ond.

Alli headed well wide and sub­sti­tute Daniel Stur­ridge fash- for HARRYING KANE: ioned him­self a late chance, only to strike into the side-net­ting.

Sub­sti­tute Deivy­das Mat­ule­vi­cius had Eng­land hearts in mouths when run­ning through only to shoot straight at But­land, with Stur­ridge glanc­ing wide and see­ing a close-range ef­fort blocked be­fore full-time.

Harry Kane duels with Lithua­nia’s Linas Kli­mavi­ciu be­fore scor­ing Eng­land’s win­ner from the spot.

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